NBA ball hardly first sports innovation to be recalled
Posted: Wednesday December 20, 2006 1:10PM; Updated: Tuesday December 26, 2006 1:26PM
Say goodbye to the NBA's microfiber basketball, which only lasted a few months.
NBA players like Jason Kidd and Steve Nash must be pretty relieved to be getting their lacerated hands on the old NBA basketball when it gets resurrected from the dead Jan. 1. Still, even though the new ball didn't stick (literally -- many players complained that it was too slippery), the NBA has a lot of company in the sports world when it comes to hitting Ctrl+Z for "undo." Basketball's version of New Coke is just the latest of many short-lived sports innovations that have had their proverbial cups of coffee before being widely ridiculed and sent back from whence they came.
Some bad ideas, like O.J.'s If I Did It fiasco and putting ads on baseball uniforms and bases, were shot down so quickly that they never even made it past the planning stage. Others, like the designated hitter and having Terrell Owens write a children's book (about sharing, no less) are still around. But today we're only talking about the product recalls, the ideas that saw the light of day for a brief moment before getting rejected like a Nate Robinson jump shot. In order of ascending crapulence, here's a countdown of the best of the worst.
Celebrities as sportscasters: Rush Limbaugh made it three whole weeks on Sunday NFL Countdown before his insensitive comments led to his resignation. Dennis Miller, on the other hand, said nothing wrong but his obscure pop culture references made the MNF audience feel more confused than Karen Mistal in Cannibal Women in the Avacado Jungle of Death. Well, at least we can be thankful that the comedians-in-the-booth experiment stopped there and we were spared seeing, say, Henny Youngman doing color commentary: "I just flew in from Miami, and boy, do the Dolphins suck. But take the Lions -- please! I told my doctor, 'Doctor, it hurts when I go like this.' He said, 'You must be Donovan McNabb.'"
Instant replay: I have no problem with leagues using instant replay to correct on-field calls by officials. But it would be nice if they could settle on some rules and stick to them for a while. Instant replay has been tried, changed, outlawed, and tried again so often that it should be on this list three or four times.
The fisherman logo: The idea wasn't so bad in theory: to represent the New York Islanders, a logo featuring a fictitious islander portrayed as a grizzled old fisherman holding a hockey stick. Unfortunately, the team must have hired the same model whose portrait graced the packaging for Gorton's fish, a resemblance not lost on the thousands of opposing fans who taunted the visiting Isles with chants of, "We want fish sticks!" The fish sticks logo went back into the freezer less than a year later.
Charlie Finley: The former owner of the Kansas City and then Oakland A's pioneered several short-lived "innovations," including such winners as using grazing sheep to cut the grass beyond the outfield wall. Finley is also responsible for introducing orange baseballs, which he thought would be easier to see than white balls. Tried in a few exhibition games in 1973, umpires and fans praised the improved visibility but hitters found it too hard to pick up the spin, and the orange balls were never heard from again. Finley's most hare-brained scheme, though, was the mechanical rabbit named Harvey that he had built to pop out of its underground lair near the backstop when beckoned and deliver fresh baseballs to the home plate umpire. Eventually the A's took Elmer Fudd's advice and killed the wabbit after the 1969 season.